Sunday, August 14, 2022

Think Outside the Book

by Martin Wiles @LinesFromGod

“I want to write a book.”

For ten years, I have taught grammar and writing to middle schoolers, and quite a few have shared their aspirations to pen a book. Although I commend them and assure them doing so is a worthy goal, I also tell them about the roadblocks, struggles, and rejections they can expect along their journey. 

And through my connections with other writers, I’ve heard quite a few of them express the same sentiments as some of my students. So, without discouraging them, I’ve told them the same thing I tell my aspiring young pupils. Some give up the book route while others pursue it through various means: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or subsidy publishing. In our high-tech world, the publishing avenues swing wide open. 

But wait. Why must we writers have a book published to be considered successful at our craft? Does doing so put us on a higher echelon than writers who haven’t published a book? Or had it published through a particular avenue? I’ve done the book publishing thing seven times—and through various routes—but I’ve enjoyed more success when I thought outside the book. 

According to Scribe media, research shows the average self-published or digital-only book sells about 250 copies in its lifetime. Comparatively, the average traditionally published book sells only 3,000 copies during its lifetime—but only 250-300 of those sales happen in the first year (

If I’ve done my math correctly (and I’m no math major), the average number of people whose lives I have influenced with my books comes to about 1,750. Not bad, but nothing to brag about. After all, if God changes one person’s life by using my writing, then that’s enough. But why settle for less when I could easily influence more through other paths? 

Usually, each year, when I attend the Asheville Christian Writers Conference, I pick up a copy of The Christian Writers Market Guide. While this resource lists agents and book publishers who don’t require agents, the bulk of the book presents other publication routes—such as periodicals, devotions, drama, greeting cards, and Bible curriculum. And I would add local newspapers. 

I’ve been privileged to write devotional pieces for three newspapers for several years. The combined circulation for these papers is 26,979 . . . in one day. Seems to me that I can potentially reach more people once a month—even if only a portion of them read my articles—than I would ever reach in a lifetime through all my books combined. And that doesn’t include the other websites and periodicals I regularly write for. 

If God is calling you to write a book, then, by all means, pursue publication. But don’t limit yourself. Websites, periodicals, newspapers, church newsletters, greeting cards, and many other places need good writers. And if you’re looking to let God speak to others through you, those places might bring a higher return on God’s kingdom work. 

Don’t be ashamed to think outside the book. You are no less of a writer if you never write a book. 


Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God ( and serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions, Senior Editor for Inspire a Fire, and Proof Editor for Courier Publishing. He has authored six books and has been published in numerous publications. His most recent book, DON'T JUST LIVE...REALLY LIVE, debuted in October of 2021. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, author, and pastor.


  1. Thanks for this great perspective!

  2. You make an excellent--and much-needed--point, Mr. Wiles. I started my writing ministry by writing for magazines and newspapers. The circulation was into the tens of thousands. Moreover, articles and devotionals are much shorter than books. In this day of hectic schedules, people are more likely to grab a short piece while on the run than a long book. Bottom line, we must write what God has called us to write. At the same time, it's the "little" pieces of writing that could be the "big" pieces in transforming someone's life.

  3. Thank you for your insightful post, Mr. Wiles. I started my writing ministry writing for magazines and newspapers. My circulation range was into the tens of thousands. In this day of hectic schedules, people are more likely to pick up a short piece than a longer one. The "little" pieces we write can mean the "big" things in transforming a person's heart. Bottom line, let us be diligent and faithful in writing what God has called us to write and in trusting Him to get it to the readers who need it. Thank you again for your wisdom and faithfulness.

  4. A great reminder, Martin. Thank you.

  5. Important information to remember, Martin. Thank you.